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Don Davis, Forum News Service, Published November 27 2012

Recount in Minnesota House race begins today

ST. PAUL – A hand recount of 21,288 votes in a state House race begins today.

Douglas County officials begin the work at 8:30 a.m. in the courthouse in Alexandria. In Otter Tail County, the recount begins at 9 a.m. Thursday in Fergus Falls.

The State Canvassing Board on Tuesday approved rules governing the House District 8B recount, as well as a state Senate recount south of the Twin Cities. Rules follow those in effect for the 2008 U.S. Senate and 2010 governor elections.

House District 8B is the tightest legislative race. Republican Rep. Mary Franson leads Democratic challenger Bob Cunniff by 11 votes. Franson’s lead earlier was a single vote, but it expanded after mistakes were found that forced election officials to withdraw 35 ballots last week.

In Senate District 20, Democrat Kevin Dahle leads Republican Mike Dudley by 78 votes. That district is in LeSueur, Rice and Scott counties.

Results from both recounts are due back to the State Canvassing Board before Tuesday.

The board-approved rules require county officials to set aside space for the public to watch recounting.

Representatives of the candidates will be allowed to challenge election officials’ decisions about who should get each ballot. The canvassing board would decide who, if anyone, receives votes from challenged ballots. Challenged ballots will be posted on the secretary of state’s website.

While the two recounts are important in their districts, they will not determine the balance of legislative power. Democrats won enough seats to control both legislative chambers.

The election produced a record turnout in Minnesota. More than 76 percent of eligible voters cast ballots. Secretary of State Mark Ritchie says allowing Minnesotans to vote early would further boost turnout.

Voters can now cast absentee ballots ahead of time, but they technically need to have one of a handful of valid reasons for voting early. Ritchie says he'll back legislative efforts to expand voting ahead of Election Day.

The Associated Press contributed to this report